Despite the CDC and State Department of Health Guidelines, the Seattle Education Association (SEA) teachers union is demanding that the kid’s masks mandate remain in place until May 1, 2022, which comes two weeks after spring break. The SEA is responding to Seattle Governor Jay Inslee’s lifting of the state’s indoor mask mandate beginning March 11, which also includes all schools within the state. King County will follow the new mandate, but Seattle Public Schools said in a recent statement that they will continue the mask mandate for students “until further notice.”
In their lengthy letter addressed to Dennis Worsham, Interim Director of Public Health – Seattle & King County, and Dr. Jeffrey Duchin, Health Officer, Public Health – Seattle & King County, the SEA said they first spoke with representatives of Public Health and the King County Executive Office to discuss Gov. Inslee’s decision to drop the kids’ masks mandate. The letter, which was signed by 12 members of the SEA, said they offered their “on-the-ground expertise” as it pertained to teachers in schools and their experiences regarding masking. The SEA also offered their insight on the removal of masks, which they feel is still too soon, and how it would negatively affect their school communities.
According to the SEA, which sort of flies in the face of “science,” they claim that “required masking” has been the single most important, other than vaccines, mitigation measure during the COVID pandemic. They say that since kids and teachers have been wearing masks for well over a year now that it has become natural and routine for them. They claim that the universal masking mandate contributes to the feelings of safety and security for students and teachers. In fact, the SEA says that “Removing masks will significantly disrupt the sense of normalcy and educators will struggle to explain to students why we are removing masks so soon.”
Another point the SEA wanted to make was their concern for the mental health of students, teachers, and families. They feel that taking kids’ masks off would only worsen the mental health of all involved. They especially wanted to point out that lifting the mask mandate would be most heavily felt by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.
After laying out all their concerns, the SEA got to the crux of the matter – keeping the kid’s masks mandate going until May 1. “It is our strong recommendation that the mask mandate be lifted no earlier than May 1.” Of course, they made sure they put those words in bold. They claim that lifting the mask mandate two weeks after spring break will put more distance between kids and the Omicron variant. The SEA feels that those extra two weeks give them the ability to further “educate the community about the science behind lifting the mask mandate.”
But what’s confusing for many is that the SEA was following the science and CDC recommendations when the kids’ masks mandate went into effect, but now they are refusing to listen to the CDC and the State Department of Health as they say the mask mandates can be lifted. It’s puzzling, to say the least.
So, “until further notice,” Seattle Public Schools is in a pickle. They are not allowed to follow the lifting of the kids’ masks mandate without first negotiating with the SEA because it’s “required by the current collective bargaining agreement, to arrive at a mutually agreeable position regarding any permanent change to mask use requirements throughout the district.”
SEA President Jennifer Matter said via KUOW News, “We believe there should be no rush to lift the mask mandate. We have people who are immunocompromised, we have pregnant educators, we have educators who have children of their own that are under five years of age that cannot be vaccinated.” This is just one more instance of the power of teacher’s unions and why so many parents are asking out the public school systems. Not even the CDC nor Gov. Inslee carry enough weight to sway the union. So, while most of the state of Washington will be dropping the kids mask mandate, Seattle Public Schools will keep their students behind the mask.